Council postpones Simms’ property rezoning discussion again

Meg Hibbert Contributing writer

Photo by Meg Hibbert Salem City Council meets in an almost-empty Community Room at the Salem Civic Center Monday night, originally reserved to hear a rezoning request on a large subdivision proposed for the former Simms’ horse farm property off Upland Drive near West Club. The hearing is now planned for Oct. 29.

Perhaps the topic with the most interest at Monday night’s Salem City Council meeting was what didn’t happen.

Council did not take up a request to rezone and build 150 houses and patio homes on the former Simms horse farm on Diamond Road near West Club subdivision. Instead, Councilmembers voted to accept the petitioners’ request to withdraw rezoning and special exception requests. The matters are due to be taken up in October after the Salem Planning Commission hears them.

This Council meeting had been advertised for and took place in the Community Room of the Salem Civic Center, which can seat more than 100 people. Instead, only six chairs were taken up by members of the public Monday night, who were there to listen or were interested in other matters.

The controversial rezoning requests which have residents in that part of South Salem up in arms would, if granted, turn 67 acres of horse farm pastures and paddocks with a wide view of Salem into 150 houses and “cluster homes.”

  1. Fralin Companies Inc. – that has a contract to purchase the acreage – and The Simms Family Limited Partnership which owns the farm are asking for the rezoning and special exception to allow single family residences and detached single-family cluster housing.

The items were first on the Planning Commission for Aug. 14, then continued to Sept. 11 due to a large amount of interest from the public. This month, they were continued again.

Nearby residents say they are concerned about a huge volume of additional traffic pouring onto Upland Drive at West Club Drive and Diamond Road, near Homeplace Drive and Franklin Street.

They are also concerned about construction disruption in their area, stormwater runoff on that hilly property, and lots more people. That’s not to mention doing away with the views, a peaceful touch of rural property on the longtime farm many people remember as the place where they and their children have gone for years for horseback riding lessons and practice.

Originally, Fralin proposed a mixture of 105 single-family homes and up to 45 cluster homes like townhomes and patio homes.

By late August, the petitioner filed a revised application with 25 cluster homes, leaving about 20 acres of open space, which Fralin said would have walking trails.

The main entrance into the subdivision, as shown on the plans, would be at West Club and Upland. Another entrance would be off Diamond Road.

Those streets are curvy and narrow, the Salem Police Department pointed out in comments on the proposed subdivision.

The next meeting of the Salem Planning Commission is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 16, followed by the Salem City Council meeting on Oct. 29. Both are scheduled to be at the Salem Civic Center.

In items at this week’s Council Meeting, Council

  • held a public hearing and approved a request by the purchaser of former Farmer Auctions for an auction and appraisal business at 29 Wildwood Road, near the intersection with West Main Street. Hines Services asked for a Use Not Provided for Permit to allow the business. Before now, it was located in an industrial park area on Midland, off Electric Road. No one spoke for nor against the request, although Jared Hines of Radford was in the audience.

According to Salem Community Development Director Chuck VanAllman, Hines is planning a smaller operation than in the past, and is proffering to have no more than six live auctions per year, and no on-street parking on Wildwood or Horner Lane. Hines told VanAllman he believed there is enough parking at the building and in a grassy area next to Angelle’s restaurant. VanAllman said Hines also plans to have a parking attendant on duty during auctions to keep people from parking in other areas.

Council’s vote to approve was 4-0, with Councilman James Martin absent.

  • Council also set Oct. 14 for a public hearing on two Salem School Board appointments. Terms of Andy Raines and Artice Ledbetter run through Dec. 31. Both are applying to be reappointed.

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